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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Winter

How to Draw Ice and Icicles Using Pencils and a Stock Image

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

With winter arriving, ice starts to become a major feature in the outside world. So come and join me as I show you how to draw a cool icicle.

What You Will Need

You will need the following equipment in order to complete this project: 

Part 1 of the tools you will need for this tutorial
Part 2 of the tools you will need for this tutorial
  • Drawing paper or newsprint
  • Drawing board (optional)
  • Masking tape
  • Pencils (Types, 7B to H)
  • Mechanical pencils (Types 6B to 2B)
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Steel ruler
  • Compressed charcoal sticks (Extra soft)
  • Charcoal pencil
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Gum eraser
  • Mechanical eraser
  • Tombow Square and Circular detailed erasers
  • Varied size blending nubs
  • Tub of charcoal powder
  • Artists fixative
  • Stock image from Envato Market

1. Prepare Your Paper

For this tutorial we will be working on A4 size paper. If you have a drawing board to hand, secure your paper onto it with tape so that it does not slide around as you are drawing. Personally I find a standard smooth Bristol board is best for this type of drawing.

How to set up your paper make sure your tape is secure

2. Draw Your Grid

Step 1

Start by measuring out how big you want this drawing to be; for this tutorial I will be working to the exact size of the paper. With your steel ruler, measure out the size of your grid. It would be best to avoid drawing too small a box, as this can complicate the construction of the image. My best advice would be to use a box that is either 1 x 1 inches or larger. For this tutorial I have decided to use a box measuring 1.3 x 1.3 inches exactly.

We are after a box size of 13 inches by 13 inches

Step 2

Draw out your grid on the paper using a sharp 2B regular or mechanical pencil with a moderate touch, as you may need to erase these lines later as we progress. Remember that pressing too hard on the paper or using too hard a lead can leave unwanted indentations that you may not be able to erase.

How your grid should look if drawn correctly

3. Construct Your Image

Step 1

For the actual drawing, it is best to continue using a 2B mechanical pencil. Before starting to draw, be sure to sharpen your pencil, as a common error that learning artists make is using a blunt pencil to draw an image.

Using the reference, choose a focus point to begin your drawing. I am going to start by drawing a large “T” like shape that will act as a base for the wooden beam and our main icicle.

Start of by drawing a simple T shape that will act as a guide for our main icicle

Step 2

Continue drawing out basic shapes to define areas of the image. If you have labelled your grid as explained earlier, it should be easy for you to draw these points on the image.

Continue using simple lines to build up your drawing Keep things easy at this point

Step 3

Once we have all the basic guides where we want them, we now have to fill in the details. At this point, take care when drawing and be sure to go back to your reference regularly as a poor drawing at this stage will show up later on. Remember to keep sharpening your pencil as you go, but also avoid using hard pressure as you may find it difficult to erase these lines if you need to later on.

Once you are sure you have your layout correct you can fill in the details

Step 4

Now that we have a fully constructed image, take your putty eraser and clean up any unnecessary loose lines and make sure you have a clean image to work with for the next stage. If you have any harder lines, the best tool to get rid of these is your harder gum eraser.

Our clean line art ready for rendering

4. Begin Rendering Your Image

Step 1

Now we can begin to fill in the details and create our icy effects. If you are right handed, we shall be working from left to right on the paper to avoid smudging the graphite and charcoal; if you are left handed I would recommend working right to left.

We will be using two methods of applying graphite to the paper with pencils, soft charcoal stick, graphite powder and charcoal powder.

  • Circulism
  • Cross hatching
The types of rendering we shall be using for this tutorial

Circulism involves rotating your pencil, charcoal stick or cotton bud with moderate pressure in a circular motion whilst moving the pencil across the page as shown below. Like hatching, this can be used to build up tone depending on pressure applied to the paper and how many times you repeat the motions. I use circulism more for darker tones and it is especially useful for black areas as it gives good coverage on the paper.

Cross hatching is applied by a series of strokes in a diagonal direction going one way, then repeating the motion in the opposite direction. Levels of tone can be built up using this method by bringing hatchings closer together or repeating the motions time and again. You can also choose to blend the area you have shaded afterwards with a cotton bud or tissue paper if you so wish.

For the first section we are going to add a background to our image using charcoal powder and a cotton wool pad. To start off, take your pad and carefully dab it into your charcoal powder tub until you have a moderate amount of powder on the pad and then work it onto the paper using a circular motion. Remember to only cover a limited area of the background at this stage.

Begin your rendering by laying down a first layer of graphite powder with a cotton wool pad

Step 2

Once the first layer is put down on the paper, take some more powder and work over the top of this layer using the same circular motion.

Apply a second layer of charcoal powder to build up tone

Step 3

For darker tones, take your extra soft charcoal stick and work a small amount on a separate piece of paper. Then take a clean cotton wool pad, rub it into the charcoal you have worked on this separate piece of paper, and then transfer it onto our canvas. Repeat the motion until you have the correct tone we are after.

You should now have a partially completed background; we are going to continue working on it once we have completed rendering the large icicle in the next section.

For really dark tones it is best to work some extra soft charcoal onto the paper as well as regular powder

Step 4

If you need to do so, take your charcoal pencil and using the cross hatching method draw in areas of tone where it is needed and then take your cotton bud and blend the area you have drawn in.

Any tight areas of the background can be worked in using your charcoal pencil

5. A Brief Look at Rendering Wood

Step 1

We are now going to start working on the wooden beam at the top of the image that our icicles will be clinging to, so let’s begin rendering by using a small amount of graphite powder on your cotton bud to lay down a light base tone on the paper. Apply using the circulism method described earlier.

Start by laying a base of charcoal in a horizontal direction across the paper start as we mean to go on

Step 2

To tighten the edges of your beam take a 2B or a 3B pencil and carefully draw in additional areas of tone. For added effect, pay close attention to your reference and take note of which direction the grain of the wood is going in. For example, I will be drawing from left to right following the horizontal direction of the grain of the wood in the reference.

With your mechanical pencils draw in the finer grains of wood again following a horizontal direction

Step 3

For darker grains of wood take your mechanical 4B pencil and continue to go in the horizontal direction left to right (or vice versa if you are left handed). Be sure to take great care when drawing in these grains as they are so fine.

Taking great care may seem tedious but it is worth it

6. Render the Ice

Step 1

Now that we have our wooden beam completed, we shall move on to an entirely different texture: slippery ice! To begin with, the process is very much the same as with the wooden beam. First put down a layer of graphite powder with your cotton bud.

Begin rendering your ice by laying down a layer of graphite powder

Step 2

Next take your 6B pencil and, using tight circulism, carefully work in areas of tone in this first blob of ice. For darker tones, you may need to move to a 7B pencil, but be careful how much pressure you apply to the paper as it may get difficult to erase areas if we need to later on.

It is possible to render ice with either mechanical or sharp traditional pencils

Step 3

Now we have some tones laid down on the paper, take your small and medium sized blending nubs and blend these tones together and try to smooth out the overall look of your rendering. 

Use your small blending knubs to smooth the sections you have rendered

Step 4

For very small black tones, which are very few in this reference, I would suggest your best course of action is to take a soft charcoal pencil and carefully draw in these fine black areas. Remember to make sure the pencil is sharp before you start.

Use your charcoal pencil to draw in black areas but be sparing in its use

Step 5

We now need to add some bright specular highlights to the image. To create these we are going to use our mechanical eraser but, as you will note in our reference, these highlights are very fine, so we will only need a fine touch on the paper with the eraser to create them as the eraser itself spins at such speed. If you wish to do so you can use the circular tombow eraser to further work your highlights.

Make use of your mechanical and tombow erasers to create fine highlights

7. Work on the Large Icicle

Step 1

We are now moving on to working on our main icicle, which firstly involves laying down a light tone of graphite powder with your cotton bud. This time, though, only put down one layer of powder, as we are going to be using our various mechanical and regular pencils for rendering.

The first steps for rendering our large icicle are the same as before

Step 2

We are now going to render this icicle from the top down, and we are going to start by using a regular 4B pencil and work using the tight circulism method to carefully add additional tone to the paper. 

For any fine rendering, I find it best to move to mechanical pencils as these do remain sharp, and the fine lead is ideal for working in tight corners and picking out the smallest details.

The following steps remain the same too however you may need to make more use of your 6 and 7B pencils

Step 3

Now we are going to create some bright highlights using our fine square and circular tombow erasers. Take careful note of where your highlights are in your reference and use careful strokes with your erasers when working. Remember, if you have not worked your pencil marks too hard into the paper, you should not have any problems when it comes to erasing.

Use your tombow erasers to again work in highlights but as you can see it will require a steady hand

Step 4

We should now have our first stage completed, and shall now move down the icicle, following the same process as before, by first applying a little graphite powder to a section of the icicle.

Continue to move down the icicle rendering a section at a time

Step 5

As we move further down the icicle, you will notice more and more tiny air bubbles appear trapped within the ice, and you will find you will need to make more use of your mechanical pencils to draw these in using a circular motion. For really light bubbles I find it best to use a sharp 2H pencil and then draw the bubbles in using a light touch.

You will find that the further you move down the icicle you will find be using more and more of your mechanical

Step 6

Continue to work carefully down the icicle until it is complete, following the same methods we have worked with throughout this tutorial.

Eventually after a lot of careful work we reach the end

8. Work on the Smaller Icicle

Step 1

Having completed our main icicle, we now shall move onto the last remaining icicle. As with the previous icicles, our first step is to put down a layer of graphite powder. With this icicle being so much smaller, however, you need to take much more care when working with your cotton bud. 

For our last icicle the beginning methods for rendering are the same but be sparing with the powder as this icicle is only small

Step 2

Take your 2B mechanical pencil and, as with the previous icicle, use tight circulism to carefully lay down light areas of tone. Next, move to your 6B pencil or charcoal pencil and draw in the darker tones. 

Again, as with our previous icicles, you may need to use either your small or medium blending nubs to smooth out some of your rendering. For this smaller icicle, the small nub may be the best tool to use.

As with our previous icicle it is best to use mechanical pencils to build up the layers and small blending knubs for smoothing the tones

9. Add Dazzling Highlights

Step 1

For added effect we are going to add a few specular highlights to our image, which really make our icicles stand out. It is very important to take note of where your light sources are coming from when attempting to do this sort of effect, as having bright highlights dotted everywhere on the image can confuse viewers of the art work.

We need to start this effect by making sure the area where we intend to put our highlights is clean and clear, so use your tombow erasers to get rid of any unnecessary pencil marks.

You can see we are going to create some specular highlights on the left side of our main icicle and at the tip of the other

Step 2

If there are any difficult pencil marks remaining, use your mechanical eraser to try and remove them. A strong word of caution, however: do not hold the eraser on the paper for too long, as you will burn the surface of the paper and ruin the entire drawing!

Use your mechanical eraser to clean stubborn areas of graphite but be careful

Step 3

Next, take your circular tombow eraser and carefully work in a few glints to really sell the reflection. Be sparing in how many barbs you make, as too many will spoil the effect. Less is more!

Be careful with this final stage as it requires a VERY steady hand but the results are worth it

10. Add Fixative and Finishing Touches

Step 1

You should now have an image that is virtually complete! It is at this point I would recommend you check your work carefully against our reference to make sure you have not missed any details. 

Getting there We now just need some final touches

Step 2

In our reference you will notice there are a few floating bits of dust around the icicles, so we are carefully going to put these in using our circular tombow erasers and using a very light touch by simply tapping the artwork with the erasers. If you don't get the effect you are after first time then a slightly harder tap may be required. 

Lastly, to seal your work, you should now spray your drawing with artist’s fixative. This substance prevents any accidental smudging of your drawing when it is on display or in storage.

Our finished artwork

Finally We Are Finished!

Ice can be one of nature’s greatest wonders, especially when you get phenomena like icicles in many different shapes and sizes clinging to various surface ledges and walls. 

With this tutorial I hope I have given you an insight into how you too can create your own cool, natural sculptures that hopefully will give Mother Nature herself a rival to go up against!

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